Clergy abuse investigation reaches two-year mark
LANSING — Millions of documents have been reviewed and 11 men have been or are being prosecuted by Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office since authorities executed search warrants two years ago on all seven of Michigan’s Catholic dioceses as part of the state’s investigation into clergy abuse.
According to the Michigan Attorney General’s office, 42 Michigan State Police troopers, five officers from other law enforcement agencies and 15 special agents from the Attorney General’s office executed search warrants on Oct. 3, 2018, at Michigan’s seven dioceses. In that effort, they seized 220 boxes of paper documents and more than 3.5 million digital documents.
Due to a slowdown in court operations as a result of COVID-19, no charged cases have been resolved through plea deals or trial since late 2019. However, the review of documents has continued along with other steps to further the investigation. To date, the department has:
≤ Completed the paper document review of the Gaylord, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing and Marquette dioceses. Of the 220 boxes of paper documents seized, about 78 boxes remain;
≤ Completed the electronic document review of the Gaylord, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Marquette dioceses;
≤ Hired and trained a full-time victim advocate to support the hundreds of victims identified in the course of the investigation;
≤ Continued to refer the completed criminal investigations back to the respective dioceses; and
≤ Followed up with victims who have not been interviewed with a trauma-informed interviewer, including those whose cases are barred by the statute of limitations, where the accused priest has died or any other reason that makes criminal prosecution impossible.
Through the department’s review of paper documents alone, 454 accused priests and 811 reported victims have been identified. That number may change as investigatory efforts continue.
As of Sept. 28, the Attorney General’s Clergy Abuse Investigative Team had reviewed more than 2.24 million of the digital documents seized.
Nessel recorded a video message to outline the progress her office has made.
“I am deeply proud of the work our Clergy Abuse Investigative Team has done — and we are dedicated to continuing this incredibly important work,” Nessel said. “We are committed to ensuring that every case of sexual abuse and assault is thoroughly reviewed and that whenever we are able to pursue justice for a victim, we do so aggressively and relentlessly. We must all commit to breaking down the walls of silence that so often surround sexual assault and abuse.
“In the end, we hope this investigation provides a voice to those who have suffered in silence for so long and shines a light on those offenders who have escaped punishment for their crimes by hiding in shadows.”
In addition to the paper and digital documents seized from the dioceses, information is also received through the Attorney General’s clergy abuse tip line: 1-844-324-3374. That has generated 750 tips related to abuse, leading to 112 police investigations, 180 victim interviews and 285 police reports.
The Michigan Department of Attorney General’s clergy abuse investigation has resulted in 11 cases being prosecuted so far:
≤ Roy Joseph, a priest in Marquette, was charged in Marquette County with one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. His extradition from India is in progress.
≤ Gary Jacobs, a priest at parishes in Ewen and Iron Mountain, faces a total of 10 criminal sexual conduct charges in five cases. He was arrested in January in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He has been bound over for trial and a Walker hearing is scheduled for Nov. 6.
≤ Vincent DeLorenzo, who was a priest at Holy Redeemer Church in downstate Burton was arrested in Marion County, Florida, in May 2019 and charged with three felony counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and three felony counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. A pretrial hearing in Genesee County is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Nov. 12.
≤ Jacob Vellian, a former priest at St. John the Evangelist Parish in downstate Benton Harbor, was charged in May 2019 with two counts of rape. His extradition from India is in progress.
≤ Timothy Crowley, who was a priest at St. Thomas Rectory in Ann Arbor, was charged in May 2019 with four felony counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and four felony counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. He was arrested in Tempe, Arizona. Crowley’s case was dismissed after a preliminary examination but the Attorney General’s office filed an appeal in December and it remains pending in Ann Arbor Circuit Court before Judge Archie Brown.
≤ Neil Kalina, who was a priest at St. Kiernan Catholic Church in Shelby Township, was charged in May 2019 with two felony counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and arrested in Littlerock, California. His trial starts Nov. 19.
≤ Joseph “Jack” Baker, a pastor at St. Mary Parish in downstate Wayne and an associate pastor at Sacred Heart in Dearborn and at St. Hugo of the Hills Parish in Bloomfield Hills, was charged with one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. He awaits a trial date in Wayne County Circuit Court and his next court date is Monday.
≤ Joseph Comperchio, a teacher at St. John Elementary in Jackson County, was charged in September with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and four counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. He waived extradition and was returned to Michigan on Oct. 1. His next court date is Monday.
≤ Gary Berthiaume, a former priest at Our Lady of Sorrows in Farmington, was charged with one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, a 15-year felony. He was arrested in late September in Illinois, waived extradition and was returned to Michigan on Friday. He was arraigned Monday in Farmington District Court and given a $50,000 cash/ surety bond. His next court date is Wednesday in the 47th District Court in Farmington.
≤ Patrick Casey, who was a priest at St. Theodore of Canterbury Parish in Westland, was charged with one felony count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct in May 2019. He pleaded guilty to aggravated assault after a jury trial in Wayne County Circuit Court in October 2019 and served 45 days in the Wayne County Jail.
≤ Brian Stanley, who was a priest at St. Margaret’s Church in downstate Coldwater, was charged with false imprisonment, pleaded guilty on Nov. 20 and was sentenced to 60 days in jail, probation and sex offender registration.